International Security Journal catches up with Philippe Niederhauser, Head of Sales and Marketing at Touchless Biometric Systems AG.
Some people may be surprised to learn that biometric identification systems have actually been around since the 19th century. French Police Officer, Alphonse Bertillon developed a method of specific body measurements to categorise and compare criminals.
Things were then taken to the next level in the 1880s as fingerprinting began to be used not only as a means of identifying criminals but also as a form of signature on contracts. Since then, research has advanced at a rapid rate.
Biometrics have gone from a novelty technology to part of everyday life, with Apple including fingerprint recognition as a means to unlock the iPhone in 2013. Now, with the impact of COVID-19 on our society, biometrics look set to become even more integral to our way of life.
International Security Journal spoke with Philippe Niederhauser, Head of Sales and Marketing at Touchless Biometric Systems AG (TBS) to find out why touchless biometric devices are the answer to COVID-19 challenges and what makes the company’s newly-launched solution so unique.
“It’s in our DNA,” said Philippe Niederhauser when asked what makes TBS different from other biometric solutions providers. Once you take a closer look at the company and its achievements, it’s very difficult to disagree.
Founded in 2003 and based in Switzerland, TBS manages a reseller network of over 100 companies and has completed thousands of installations all over the world. The business counts Allegion, Kaba, Siemens and Honeywell amongst its clients and is also integrated with Nedap and Lenel controllers.
The economic impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for many companies but TBS has continued to do business. Niederhauser stated: “We were well prepared for COVID-19 and were able to immediately respond with touchless biometric solutions that have been in incredibly high demand.
“As a globally active company, we have seen different impacts depending on the region but at the moment, we have not lost any projects or orders because of the pandemic.”
The company has gone the extra mile and immediately informed its customers of how to adopt COVID measures as soon as the pandemic hit. It also produced a webinar for its community detailing some best practice guidelines they should adhere to.
A revolutionary combination
Not willing to settle for the status quo however, TBS is looking to enhance its market share with the launch of a brand new product, the 2D Eye Thermal.
The product is a revolutionary combination of iris recognition and face detection designed for high security and great user experience. The face sensor is used to quickly detect the eye’s position and automatically adjust the capture to the height of the user while the iris sensor captures the iris of both eyes conveniently with hardly any need for adjustment. This unique combination, together with its strong algorithm are fundamental to capture the biometric marker of a live individual, making it extremely secure.
On top of the product rests an additional thermal camera for body temperature measurement. Contrary to most common cameras, it has great sensitivity, able to distinguish thermopile arrays at <50 mK (0.050°C). Thus, able to accurately distinguish between someone with fever from someone healthy but with an above average surface skin temperature.
Niederhauser added: “The combination of highly accurate identification and integrated temperature measurements gives the product its uniqueness. The user feels like it is a safe method of detection through facial recognition and the iris identification only adds to the accuracy.”
He continued: “As soon as the full effects of COVID were realised, companies began to promote an immediate response to the problem by simply adding temperature measurement capabilities to a facial recognition device. The biggest problem with solutions such as this is that they offer an extremely high rate of false alarms.
“Firstly, people wearing a mask make it very difficult for the facial recognition to work correctly. Then there is the issue of the temperature measurement sensors. Often, these solutions have very cheap sensors which can be extremely inaccurate. Our 2D Eye Thermal has state-of-the-art temperature measurement sensors and is one of the best devices available on the market today.”
There are also other innovative features, such as the sensors in the device are able to identify whether a person is wearing a mask or not. That and detection of temperature can then not only prompt a warning message to the user but also trigger an alarm signal to be passed to a central point, for example, the HR or security desk console programme. Furthermore, the company has also conducted tests to assess these abilities when a glass or Plexiglas is placed in front of the reader. Results show that they have no impact in the behaviour of both sensors and features.
The 2D Eye Thermal is able to quickly verify and identify many users per minute providing a smooth experience from the point of access of an office building or other site. Thanks to its approach in integration, the TBS webservices system does allow for additional features to cover many other aspects of security and safety. Those include the ability to count people, triggering actions such as touchless turnstiles or doors and RFID identification, for instance in visitor management applications.
Providing peace of mind
It has, of course, been a time of huge anxiety for people all around the world as the COVID-19 virus has taken its toll. Niederhauser believes that touchless biometrics has a role to play in reducing the fear of people towards the virus.
“Touchless technology can provide people with peace of mind when they are using these devices. The user experience will help to reduce fear as it obviously has lots of hygiene benefits compared to touch devices.
“COVID has also pushed forward the digitalisation of processes. One of the most effective ways to enhance the security of a digital process is through biometric identification so I think we have a part to play here as well as both factors will help touchless biometrics to move forward in the market.”
Niederhauser revealed that TBS has already had one project request that their devices be swapped from touch to touchless and thinks that this may become a widespread trend due to the effects of COVID-19.
He said: “I think there will be a vaccine one day which is extremely important but for now, touchless devices will definitely help. Although they are a higher price than traditional technology so companies may think that just putting hand sanitiser next to the device will be enough.”
Taking centre stage
Biometric technology has come a long way since those early days of Alphonse Bertillon and Niederhauser is incredibly excited about what the future could hold. He is adamant that the accurate identification and the low false alarm rate of biometric devices could see them becoming the industry standard for access control.
He explained: “Traceability and security are the main drivers of biometrics across several industries. The interaction between human and machine, the enhanced automation of processes and the incredibly accurate rates of identification are why we see a bright future for biometrics.
“Mobile biometrics will play a role and fixed devices will play a role. We are confident that biometric signatures will become the standard not only in regions such as the Middle East and Asia, but also across Europe and the Americas.”
Narrowing the focus down to what lies ahead for TBS, Niederhauser disclosed that there is going to be another exciting announcement from the company coming up in 2021. He said: “We have another product launch coming in the middle of next year. It will be a different technology to facial recognition and will have a throughput of 50 to 60 people per minute.”
With the effects of COVID-19 likely to be felt for a very long time to come, it is probable that touchless access control devices are going to play a significant role in the “new normal”. The hygiene benefits they possess make them a suitable candidate for any organisation looking for a new access control system at the moment.
With subject matter experts such as Philippe Niederhauser on board, TBS will continue to guide its partners and customers through this challenging period and into the next phase of biometric technology.
This article was published in the August 2020 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital copy on the link here